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No Minor Accomplishment

The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball

Bob Golon

Publication Year: 2008

America's pastime has roots in New Jersey dating back to 1846 when the first baseball game using modern rules was played on Elysian Fields in Hoboken. The sport thrived throughout the state until the 1950s when fans began to turn away from local competition, preferring to watch games broadcast on television, to take a trip to see a major league team in New York, or to frequent newly air-conditioned movie theaters or bowling alleys. By the early 1990s, however, a growing disenchantment with the high ticket prices and corporate atmosphere of Major League Baseball led to the revival of a purer form of the sport in the Garden State.
    In No Minor Accomplishment, sports historian and New Jersey native Bob Golon tells the story of the state's baseball scene since the Trenton Thunder arrived in 1994. Drawing on interviews with team owners and employees, industry executives and fans, Golon goes behind the scenes to show how maintaining a minor league ball club can be a risky business venture. Stadiums cost millions to build, and a team full of talented players does not immediately guarantee success. Instead, each of the eight minor league and independent professional teams in the state must tailor themselves to the communities in which they are situated. Shrewd marketing is necessary to attract fans, but Golon also explains how, unlike Major League Baseball, the business aspect of the minor and independent leagues is not something the average spectator notices.  For the fans, baseball in New Jersey is wholesome, exciting family entertainment.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Since August 2004, I’ve depended on many people for the help and support necessary to finish this project, and I would like to acknowledge them now, and sincerely hope that I do not leave anybody out...

Chronology

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pp. xiii-xvi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Like many New Jersey residents, I have been a frequent attendee at the minor league and unaffiliated independent professional baseball parks in New Jersey since their introduction to the state in 1994. I never really gave much thought...

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Chapter 1: Baseball’s Early Roots in New Jersey

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pp. 5-24

It was April 1946, and New Jersey paused for a deep breath. During this particular spring, the sun seemed warmer and brighter, the air smelled fresher, the smiles...

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Chapter 2: The Decline and Reinvention of the Minor Leagues, Post-1950

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pp. 25-38

Unlike the declining state of professional baseball in New Jersey by 1949, it took a year or two before other ball clubs throughout the United States felt the same financial strains. In 1949, more than 39.8 million fans attended...

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Chapter 3: Baseball Returns to New Jersey in 1994

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pp. 39-54

The two men who brought professional baseball back to New Jersey were as different as night and day. One lived in the city, the other in the country. One was a slick, hard-driving Trenton politician who could work a room with the best of them. The other was a low-keyed businessman who commuted...

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Chapter 4: The Trenton Thunder: The Capital of New Jersey Baseball

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pp. 55-73

The meeting room in the executive offices of the Trenton Thunder, below the stands at Waterfront Park, is relatively small. Early on this Labor Day morning, twenty-five Thunder staff members—both male and female, full-time and intern, some standing, some leaning against the wall...

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Chapter 5: A League of His Own: Frank Boulton and the Atlantic League

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pp. 74-87

Major League Baseball rule number 52 (a)(4) allows any majorleague club to block any other major- or minor-league club from playing within its territorial area without permission. Territories are defined by geography, and they...

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Chapter 6: The Somerset Patriots: Location, Location, Location!

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pp. 88-104

For the Somerset Patriots of Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, the investment in home is so strong that the ball club’s players and management...

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Chapter 7: Newark and the Bears: Combining the Past and the Present

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pp. 105-122

The present was not living up to the past. After an absence of fifty years, the Bears returned to the city of Newark in 1999 amid great fanfare and expectations. It did not matter that it was no longer the 1940s, that venerable...

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Chapter 8: Discovering Camden with the Riversharks

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pp. 123-136

One Wednesday evening, I sat amidst a crowd of approximately 3,500 fans at Campbell’s Field in Camden—an impressive number considering that across the river, the Philadelphia Phillies were also playing at home on...

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Chapter 9: The Atlantic City Surf: Searching for a Niche

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pp. 137-152

The days are still hot, the surf is warm, and the boardwalk is alive with vacationers on any given day in late August. However, Labor Day is approaching, and everyone knows the beach season is about to end, lending a sense of urgency to all activities, including Atlantic League baseball all across...

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Chapter 10: Youth Must Be Served: The Can-Am League in New Jersey

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pp. 153-168

Young New Jersey baseball players. They all could have made it, if not for the accident of birth. After all, in New Jersey, they could not play ball all year round like the fortunate kids in California, Florida, and other warm...

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Chapter 11: Nine Innings with the Lakewood BlueClaws

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pp. 169-184

In the preceding pages, we have traveled throughout the New Jersey baseball landscape. From the cornfields of Sussex County to the Camden waterfront, we’ve looked at both minor-league and independent professional clubs...

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Chapter 12: Conclusion The Community of New Jersey Baseball

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pp. 185-188

It is March 3, 2007. The late-winter chill is struggling mightily to give way to the brilliant early-morning sunshine on the campus of Montclair State University. There is nothing that looks more lonely than a ballpark in the off-season...

Notes

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pp. 189-198

Index

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pp. 199-215

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About the Author

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pp. 216-217

Bob Golon is assistant director of the Plainfield Public Library in Plainfield, New Jersey. Bob’s father used to take him on Sunday drives to Newark’s Ruppert Stadium and tell him stories about the old Bears. He is a lifelong devotee...


E-ISBN-13: 9780813544694
E-ISBN-10: 0813544696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813542744

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 13
Publication Year: 2008